Valencia Reserve is home to numerous Phoenix canariensis palms. Phoenix is
the Greek word for the palm that gives us dates, and P. canariensis is a close
relative of the date palm; canariensis conveys that it is native to the Canary
Islands. As a matter of fact, along with the Atlantic Canary bird, it is the
“Natural Symbol” of the Canary Islands
Its common names are the Canary Island Date Palm and the Pineapple Palm,
the latter because the top of the trunk can be imagined to resemble a
This palm is similar to its Phoenix relatives, the date palm and the roebelenii
palm, in having feather-like leaves, long sharp spines replacing the lower
leaflets, and separate male and female plants with the females bearing edible
fruit; while technically edible, Canary Island dates are not soft and juicy
like a grocery store date but have only a thin shell of pulp around the seed;
thus, except in times of food shortages, they are saved for pigs. In our
neighborhood the flowers are often trimmed off to avoid the mess of the dates
falling on the ground. Traditionally, in the Canary Islands, every part of this
palm was used; for example, brooms and baskets were made from the leaves.
While many of these purposes have gone by the wayside in modern times,
delicious sweet palm syrup is still prepared from the palm sap.
Phoenix canariensis can be distinguished from other large palms with
feather-like leaves. Look for: the “pineapple” beneath the crown of leaves,
the diamond-shaped pattern left on the trunk as the old leaves
fall off and the somewhat bluish tint to the leaves — the blue is not
natural to P. canariensis but is often seen because it has been cross-pollinated
with a P. dactylifera (a date palm).
Phoenix canariensis can grow up to 50 feet tall and 25 feet wide and the
landscape site must be chosen accordingly.
You will find several beauties in the VR swimming pool area (see photo
above) and several on each side of the Lyons Road Gate entrance.
Labeled photos of this and many other VR palms can be found as a slideshow
on my blog: Botanicaltours.weebly.com
Stewartia pseudocamellia. Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss.
Davidia involucrata with fruit in fall
Almost every front yard in Valencia Reserve is decorated with clumps of two to three Phoenix roebelenii. Phoenix is the Greek name for the date palm. Roebelenii honors Carl Roebelen (1855-1927), a German who hunted orchids in southeast Asia where Phoenix roebelenii is native. You will often hear this palm called by one of its common names: Pygmy Date Palm or Robellini. The small stature of this palm species makes it highly valuable for home landscaping.
The feathery leaves are lovely but, as most of us gardeners can attest, the lower leaflets of the leaves have evolved into long sharp spines, to prevent mammals from eating the foliage. Some landscapers trim many of the lower leaves, leaving the palm with a “feather-duster” appearance and exposing the gorgeous dark brown trunk. The University of Florida IFAS Extension frowns on the feather–duster look because palms do rely on their leaves for minerals and to photosynthesize the sugars they need to grow.
Phoenix roebellinii (Pygmy Date Palm) is a close relative of Phoenix dactylifera (Date Palm), as you can tell by noticing that they are both in the genus Phoenix. Unfortunately, the fruits of the Pygmy, while technically edible, are quite small and dry compared to the luscious fruits of a Date Palm, which yields grocery store quality dates. Phoenix plants are either male or female and only the females will bear the dates. This was a costly problem on date plantations because half of the plants (the males) did not yield dates, although they still required water and maintenance! Modern agriculture techniques have circumvented this issue by identifying the genetic sex of seedling date palms, so that one male can be planted to pollinate every 40-50 females. We have thousands of roebellenis in VR, so there is no lack of both sexes for pollination to occur via the wind.
A Phoenix roebelenii trunk is a useful place to mount an orchid, a fern, or a bromeliad because the trunk has protruding old leaf stem bases covered with fibers where these plants can happily sit and receive water and sun and shade. On your next walk around the neighborhood, check out all the beautiful plants hanging on Phoenix roebelenii trunks!
Click on the word "Slideshow" in the upper right hand corner of this blog to see many South Florida palms
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I am a member of Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach. One day while visiting I noticed this great succulent arrangement (see below) for sale at the gift shop for a very reasonable price, so I bought it and put it on my patio table where it is thriving. ( It was not blooming when I bought it).
So I decided to go to Mounts Nursery, where I was told this originated. Mounts Botanical Garden (MBG) is open 7 days a week from 10-4, but the Nursery (behind the garden and accessed via a second driveway) is only open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10-3:30.
I was delighted when I finally checked it out today: a lovely selection of plants mainly grown by volunteers from cuttings/seeds obtained at MBG and sold at VERY reasonable prices. The plants were divided on tables into herbs, natives, butterfly plants, etc. Here are just a few of my favs:
Some succulent arrangements for you to buy!
CHOCOLATE MINT! Leaves smelled just like chocolate mint😀
PORTULACA: a particularly pretty color and form
CUPHEA: nectar-rich flowers for butterflies
BLUE PORTERWEED: another nectar source for butterflies
CALENDULA: a flower that has been popular in England since Shakespeare's time
NASTURTIUM: from the Latin "nasal tortus", a twisted nose, due to the plant's pungent taste
Maybe most exciting of all is the Henna shrub. This plant is grown in the secton of Mounts Botanical garden called the Garden of Well-Being . Henna leaves are the source of hair, nail, and skin dye.
Tabebuia aurea ( Silver Trumpet Tree) showing off its annual spring bloom in Boynton Beach, FL on 3/18/19.
Fun and easy to read, I am recommending this book for anyone interested in the history of orchid collection , especially in England and Florida. The book was the basis for a movie called Adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Nicholas Cage; however, the movie is in no way a substitute for the book as the book is non-fiction by journalist Susan Orlean and the movie is fiction with added romance, drug use, and violence.
I've taken this class in the past; it is very practical and worthwhile with expert advice about taking care of your orchids. Do sign up if you are interested because the classes become filled!
Katherine Wagner-Reiss has her botany Certificate from the New York Botanical Garden, where she is a volunteer tour guide.